I love cities that from chance (or more likely sheer lack of funds over the centuries) have retained their medieval centers. Walking the narrow streets where sunshine barely glances down between the crumbling stone buildings gives just a glimpse of how it might have been to live here, centuries ago in crowded conditions without artificial light or plumbing. The whiffs of trash these days must have nothing on the 14th century. Thank you for indoor plumbing, Amen.
We began our day with a walk over to the Museo de'Historia de Barcelona, near the Cathedral in Plaza del Rei. In a reconstructed palace, you take the elevator downstairs to where Roman streets and buildings have been excavated. Defensive towers, laundry, homes with mosaic floors, dyeworks, garum and wine-making shops, all with explanations via audioguides included with admission. Just above is the remains of a 4th century church, and still above exhibit space on Medieval Barcelona.
From there we followed one of the walks through the Barri Gotic in our "24 Great Walks in Barcelona" book, through the old Jewish Call and the narrow streets behind the Cathedral. We wandered over to Port Vell to sit in the sun for a while.
Lunch was at the starched Senyor Pallarda, where groups of Spanish extended families were still celebrating Christmas. I loved seeing three generations of women treating their matriarch to wine and all the fried food she could eat. She looked to be near 100, so fooey to the nutritionists. Lunch was good (and on the expensive side), but frankly, I enjoyed the informal experience from last night more.
After putting our feet up for an hour, we bought subway tickets (One of Barcelona's great bargains) and headed up to Casa Batllo. I had bought tickets online, but the printing process got scrambled. An e-mail exchange with the folks in the office told us to bring our receipt to the guard at the entrance and we'd be on the VIP list for entry. So we showed up, and naturally were not on the list. And this being Spain, we got waved in anyway.
I love Art Nouveau, and Casa Batllo hit all my buttons. Organic shapes, nature-inspired motifs, intense color, curved wood, natural light. The tour with audioguide climbs up and down the building, although since three floors are still lived in you don't see the entire house. Even the light shaft is a work of art, with luminous blue tiles.
Tapas crawl around the apartment for dinner. Hit Euskal first. Much busier than the night before, but we snagged one of the wine-barrel tables outside for a glass of wine and a few pintxos.. From there we wandered a bit away from the throng, landing near the Santa Caterina market at a little place called El Atril at c/Cardera . What I liked about this spot was you ordered the tapas, getting them right out of the pan instead of sitting getting soggy on the bar. Got the classics--patatas bravas, piementos padron, chorizo, another mystery sausage, pan con tomate. Yum.